It has been a year since I have had a taste of the great Italian culture in Florence, Italy. I was fortunate enough to live there for almost four months last fall. I traveled to seven countries and countless cities across Europe. It was amazing. However, while I was traveling it never crossed my mind how difficult it would be to explain to my family how truly great all of my adventures were. I did not know how much living on another continent would change me as a person. Even more so, I had no clue how it would change my perspective on what is really important in life. How lucky am I to come back from studying abroad, celebrate Christmas with my family and then return to college where I have so many friends? I remember coming home and having so many questions from my family, the first question always being, “Oh my gosh, how amazing was it?” I would respond with “It really was amazing, a true once in a lifetime experience.” I would get into certain places I was lucky enough to travel to. That would for the most part end the conversation.
Anyone who has studied abroad knows the feeling of not being able to truly explain his or her experience while abroad. However, I carry with me how it changed me everyday of my life. I have learned to not be petty about the everyday problems of life. If you rip a nice shirt, you lose hot water for five minutes, you may not have enough closet space, or you don’t have a dryer and have to hang your clothes. These problems are so minimal in comparison to real problems. Studying abroad affords you so many great experiences. For me, the greatest part of studying abroad was learning to live without certain luxuries you are normally afforded. These were the moments that impacted me the most.
In my case, anyone that I have ever been close with or relied on was thousands of miles away. It is an experience where what you do not have teaches you so much about what you do have. It made me truly realize how fortunate I am to have hot water in the shower, to have the ability to take on credit to go away to college in order to better my education, and even to have a car to drive around. These are luxuries that have come to be very common for kids in college from middle class families in America. In Florence, these are not realities for an overwhelming majority of kids in Italy. Even high school students I spoke to do not have any type of sports or clubs run by the school that they can be involved in. I have realized that the opportunity to better your life itself is one of the greatest privileges anyone can have.
After a year of being home, Italy has taught me to also take your time and enjoy what you are doing in life. I envied the Italians so much in the way. They took their time and enjoyed the experiences of life rather than rushing through life. Where I am from, the northeast and New Jersey to be exact, neighbors the great New York City. This is one of the most quick-paced places in the world. My experience taught me to not sweat the small stuff and not rush life because as they say “Life is too short.” My time abroad went by so quickly. I feel like I did not realize how amazing it was at the time. Rest assured, I now treasure it more than ever.
As a Junior at Muhlenberg College I studied Abroad in Florence, Italy where I attended Florence University of the Arts. It was the true definition of a once in a lifetime experience. I traveled across Europe for four months meeting great people and seeing the continent. I made memories and had experiences that will last a lifetime. I participated in the SAI Global Leadership program, where I was able to volunteer in the Florentine community weekly. This helped me gain a different perspective on my experience. I learned a lot about myself and what I want for my future during the four months I was in Florence. I would recommend studying abroad through SAI to anyone and everyone.